Can turkeys run around when their head is cut off like chickens do?

Chickens may run around after their head is cut off if the head is severed near the base of the skull leaving the brain stem intact and missing the jugular vein. This usually only lasts for a few minutes, however there is the case of Miracle Mike that survived for 18 months after his head was cut off. Do turkeys also exhibit this same behavior and if not, what makes this possible in a chicken but not a turkey?

The brain does not control all bodily movements. Some movements are to a great extent controlled by neural networks in the spinal cord. The spine contains a network which is pre-programmed to control the muscles in frequently-used movements such as running or swimming in chickens. This is why a chicken can run away after you chop its head off. Likewise, turtles swim using their a spinal neural network. As long as a signal is received somewhere in this network, the network will activate the swimming movements. Such a system is coined an 'attractor network' (source: Science Nordic). A similar system has been shown to occur in a sea slug. I couldn't find similar information in the turkey though. Happy Thanksgiving :)

Note that walking and running in higher animals (mammals) is controlled by the motor cortex higher up in the brain, involving a more complex system including the pyramidal system. Reflexes, however are controlled by quick, short spinal relay circuits in higher animals as well.

Wild Turkey Behavior

It's been said that if you can locate a food source then you can locate birds. Wild turkeys are opportunistic foragers. They spend a good portion of their day scratching in leaf litter, chasing bugs and milling for seeds. See their food habits outlined below.

Poults: In the first few weeks and during their first summer, broods spend nearly 90 percent of their waking hours feeding. Poults grow at rapid rates and require a steady intake of nutritious food, mainly consisting of small insects (beetles, grasshoppers, leafhoppers) which are generally better sources of protein and energy than plant materials. As poults grow, they use more habitat types and food sources.
Juveniles and adults: Both animal and plant matter are consumed by older turkeys. Frequent food sources include soft mass (such as fruits, including blackberries, cherries, huckleberries and grapes), hard mass (such as acorns, beachnuts and hickory nuts), as well as grasses, sedges, wheat and chufa. Animal foods consist of larvae, grasshoppers and beetles.

Other Sounds from the Turkey Woods

Crow Call

The crow call is made up of several harsh notes that sound like "caw." This call is a good locator call to get a tom to shock gobble any time other than sunrise and sunset. Keep your crow call short, as a long crow call might drown out the sound of a turkey gobbling.

Owl Hoot

The eight-note hoot of the barred owl is often described as having the cadence of "who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all." The owl hoot is used to locate a tom in the early morning or late evening hours by drawing a shock gobble. The benefit of the owl hoot is that it gets the bird to gobble without using turkey sounds, which might cause the gobbler to look for you before you are ready. You should begin owl hoots about 30 minutes before sunrise, or right when cardinals begin to sing, and stop when the crows begin to call.

14 Fun Facts About Turkeys

Next Thursday may officially be called Thanksgiving, but you all know what it really is–Turkey Day! But how well do you really know Meleagris gallopavo, the wild turkey from which the domesticated version, the one likely to be on your plate, was derived?

1 ) Turkeys are more than just big chickens–more than 45 million years of evolution separates the two species.

2 ) The wild turkey was hunted nearly to extinction by the early 1900s, when the population reached a low of around 30,000 birds. But restoration programs across North America have brought the numbers up to seven million today.

3 ) There are six subspecies of wild turkey, all native to North America. The pilgrims hunted and ate the eastern wild turkey, M. gallopavo silvestris, which today has a range that covers the eastern half of the United States and extends into Canada. These birds, sometimes called the forest turkey, are the most numerous of all the turkey subspecies, numbering more than five million.

4 ) The Aztecs domesticated another subspecies, M. gallapavo gallopavo, the south Mexican wild turkey, and the Spanish brought those turkeys to Europe. The pilgrims then brought several of these domestic turkeys back to North America.

5 ) Male turkeys are called “gobblers,” after the “gobble” call they make to announce themselves to females (which are called “hens”) and compete with other males. Other turkey sounds include “purrs,” “yelps” and “kee-kees.”

6 ) An adult gobbler weighs 16 to 22 pounds on average, has a beard of modified feathers on his breast that reaches seven inches or more long, and has sharp spurs on his legs for fighting. A hen is smaller, weighing around 8 to 12 pounds, and has no beard or spurs. Both genders have a snood (a dangly appendage on the face), wattle (the red dangly bit under the chin) and only a few feathers on the head.

7 ) Studies have shown that snood length is associated with male turkey health. In addition, a 1997 study in the Journal of Avian Biology found that female turkeys prefer males with long snoods and that snood length can also be used to predict the winner of a competition between two males.

8 ) A turkey’s gender can be determined from its droppings–males produce spiral-shaped poop and females’ poop is shaped like the letter J.

9 ) Turkeys can run at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour and fly as fast as 55 miles per hour.

10 ) A group of related male turkeys will band together to court females, though only one member of the group gets to mate.

11 ) When a hen is ready to make little turkeys, she’ll lay about 10 to 12 eggs, one egg per day, over a period of about two weeks. The eggs will incubate for about 28 days before hatching.

12) Baby turkeys, called poults, eat berries, seeds and insects, while adults have a more varied diet that can include acorns and even small reptiles.

13 ) There is one other species of turkey, the ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata), which can be found on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

14 ) Benjamin Franklin never proposed the turkey as a symbol for America, but he did once praise it as being “a much more respectable bird” than the bald eagle.

4 Turkey Hunting Tactics That Work When No Other Does

Tactic # 1. Hunt the canyon turkey

The most difficult turkeys to hunt maybe those that roam in vertical landscapes – the steep slopes of canyons. Sometimes the terrain is so vertical that you can attract a turkey at 10 meters and not see it. Only its red head appears when you finally do, and the rest of the bird remains hidden by the hill. Some cross the canyon. A turkey can be on one side, fly to the other, and climb the opposite edge to strut. You may have to wade through a stream and climb 200 meters to reach it in those cases. Follow these tactics to hunt turkey.

The best way to avoid problems when hunting turkey vertically is to look for terrain features that can help you get the best view of incoming turkeys.

1. Use binoculars to find the male

Males will strut in the woods and glades on the canyon slopes but will often climb to the canyon’s rim and strut there, especially if it borders a pasture or a farm field. You can observe from a high place. Use a good binocular. We sometimes see turkeys 2 to 3 kilometers away, usually on the opposite side of the canyon. Move around when you’ve identified a popular rim, either using the steep ridge to hide your approach from below or finding small folds and streams that can hide you if you need to go from above.

2. Locate the hangers

Like turkeys everywhere, canyon turkeys have their favorite places to sleep, at least for a few nights in a row. Listen to the songs in the afternoon or before sunrise to locate these spots, then stand on the edge closest to the bird, uphill from the perch, and try to call out to you. This is one of the tactics to hunt turkey that never fails.

3. Search the flat

Turkeys walk and strut on steep terrain but are easier to see and shoot when on flat terrain. Most of the canyon walls will have some meadows on the slopes. Some are cut with old logging roads, which offer flat but narrow paving areas. Set up a lure on a sunny bench and call in the turkeys.

Tactic # 2. Treat them like white-tailed deer

Sooner or later, it happens everywhere, every season: turkeys run amok, completely ignoring or even running directly from your calls, even if you are a teacher. Hunting pressure, the mating season stage, and an abundance of chickens can all contribute to the problem.

So stop calling. Point. Then be strong and stand firm. That is the first part of the solution. Consulting your deer hunting manual is the following. Keep reading the tactics for hunting turkey they get better.

1. Explore with purpose

You wouldn’t hunt deer without trying to figure out their movement patterns. Use the same exploration skills and tools to discover turkey habits in the area you hunt. Google Maps, terrain reconnaissance, and discreet binoculars from a vantage point will help tell you what the turkeys are up to. I recommend this article about the recognition before hunting turkey.

2. Hunting in passes

Stalking a random location does not work when hunting deer. Success comes from observing routes, walkways, and funnels. It is the same when you hunt turkeys. Now that you know where the turkeys go there. The deadly location: the path the birds take between their tree and food.

3. Go for the food

Deer eat a lot, and deer follow them. Chickens eat a lot, and males follow them just as you hunt in the mountains and deer hunt where the turkeys are.

4. Go to the exhibition area

Deer hunt where there are rose beds and mating areas. Silent males reproduce. Please wait for the males to hang out and show off to the hens, their display area. Look for the drag marks on the wings, in the gaps, and on the edges of the field or meadow to find active locations. Use experience hunting deer as tactics to hunt turkey.

5. Play with the weather

Use bad weather to your advantage. Wind? Head to the slopes, ravines, valleys, and secluded nooks where wind-hating turkeys congregate. Rain? Get out of the woods and look at a field or meadow where the birds will be preening in the hours after the rain. Cold? Go to a sunny field where the hens, with the males that follow them, go to bask in the sun and warm themselves.

Tactic # 3. Hunting in the sunset

Take advantage of the sunset and the setting sun. But be warned, morning turkeys and afternoon turkeys require two very different approaches. And the wrong strategy can drive turkeys away from your favorite roosting spots and out of your hunting territory. Take this into account and hunt your turkey as the sun goes down. Keep reading these tactics to hunt turkey. You can even use turkey hunting decoy to attract turkey.

1. Start early

You wouldn’t be late for your spy house in the morning. Make the same effort in the afternoon and make sure you are at your post well before the turkeys appear. Spring days are long. The hungry birds come out to feed early. The turkeys are hungry and feed in the afternoon, and when the sun is setting. Spy three or four hours before sunset.

2. Give them space

Do not hunt directly under the trees where they perch. Instead, get along travel routes or feeding areas, where the birds will be while there is light. Turkeys that return to their perch often reverse the same route they traveled in the morning. Position yourself on the travel routes where you have good visibility and a wide range of fire.

3. Build your spy house

Prepare for a long wait. Whether it’s from natural materials, camouflage fabric, or a drop-down tent, build your hideout. The turkeys at sunset are restless, nervous, and very alert. A good hiding place provides some forgiveness in case you stretch or make an errant move.

4. Lower him

Some tactics for hunting turkey may seem crazy to you, but they work. Both females and males are often not very interested in mating or talking about it at the end of the day. Stopping calling may be for the best. If you call, use only soft sounds. The sound goes further at the end of the day.

5. Intercept

If you are hunting in grasslands or open areas, take advantage of your binoculars to check the area and once you have seen a flock on the move, sneak away to intercept them.

Tactic # 4. Chase away the flock

Remember that scene from Top Gun when Maverick tells Goose that he will let the enemy fighter jet approach? To Goose, the tactic seemed contradictory, if not crazy. This is how I felt when my guide, Jimmy Warner, told me that he would scare off the young males in front of us.

“Are you going to do what?” I said through my mask. It had taken us an hour to slip away undetected. Generally speaking, a group of turkeys has a calming effect on other turkeys, so I couldn’t believe that Warner was about to ruin it by scaring them away. But that’s exactly what he did when he jumped up, waved his hat, and sent the flock flying. Thirty minutes later, an adult male crept in, now uninhibited by the flock of youngsters, and I hunted him down. It turned out that Maverick and Jimmy knew what they were doing.

These turkey hunting tactics may sound crazy, but they work. Here are some other times when it makes sense, as misguided as it may sound, to scare away rather than blend into the bush.

1. Scare the flock

He is in one of the craziest turkey hunting tactics. In areas that produce large numbers of chicks, the young can band together like a high school gang and harass lone adult males into leaving room instead of fighting it. Youngsters can be especially aggressive with lures. If you are being harassed by a group of youngsters and don’t see mature males, Warner used the same tactic. Get up and chase the teens away, then sit back and knock gently. Cautious males will often sneak in quietly.

2. Walk with the cattle

Because we had explored, Warner and I knew that turkeys liked to eat in a large corral on a ranch. But the terrain was almost completely open, with no way to approach the turkeys undetected. So Warner did what any ranch guide would do: he opened a door and quietly herded the cattle into the corral, then we slipped behind the herd until we found a hiding place in the corner of the field. The cows scattered, and we called out to the turkeys.

3. Try a high-speed fan load

Using a turkey tail fan to get close to males is nothing new, especially in open areas with little coverage. Most hunters use this fanning tactic to awaken the male’s dominance instinct and attract them from a distance or hide a hunter’s movements to gain a better position. But in the right circumstances, a last-minute effort to kill a turkey in the open field, you can modify the technique and load the turkey. Hold your tail fan to hide as much as possible, then run towards the turkey until it is within shooting distance. This high-risk tactic only works occasionally, maybe once every five or six times, and when it doesn’t, it will scare the bird into the next state and make it impossible to follow.

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About John Bear

I am a traveler and a hunter. I am in this field for the last 25 Years and love writing about hunting from my Experiences. I am the owner of this website, Adventure in Wild.

Inkwell Inspirations

When we bought our farm a dozen years ago, we joined the Saskatchewan Bird and Small Animal Association (SBSAA) to learn about raising poultry and small animals like goats and sheep. One of the first things the SBSAA taught us was the importance of maintaining pure strains of heritage varieties for the future.

Royal Palm Heritage turkeys
Each breed – whether turkey, duck, chicken, goat, sheep, etc - has many varieties and when the varieties are allowed to run loose together and breed, the eggs could contain genes from whatever two varieties bred together. The results are called cross-breeds. While cross-breeds can be good, they no longer carry the pure strain of either parent. Sort of like a mongrel dog.

So let’s talk turkey. Everybody loves a big, wide breasted turkey sitting on their Thanksgiving table, right? Well, that turkey has been specially bred to have as much white meat on its breast as it can carry and thus it’s most likely not a Heritage turkey. I say most likely because some Heritage turkeys are making a comeback, but most don't fit today's schedule of fast-growing, clinical-reproducing turkeys.

Flickr Photo Courtesy of Ginger me

Although today's huge Thanksgiving table delight isn't exactly a eunuch, but he may as well be. He's been bred to satisfy all those white meat lovers, but his huge breast gets in the way when he's trying to mount the hens. So todays market turkeys are created using artificial insemination.

The American Poultry Association (APA) has listed 8 turkey varieties based on specific color patterns in its rule book, The Standard of Perfection.

Anita Mae's 1910 and 1945 copies of the Standard of Perfection

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) is an organization whose role is to conserve heritage breeds for future use. Their mission is "Ensuring the future of agriculture through genetic conservation and the promotion of endangered breeds of livestock and poultry." They maintain a watchlist of all livestock and list them under headings. Here is their current watchlist for Heritage turkeys:

- critical (Beltsville Small White, Chocolate, Jersey Buff, Lavender/Lilac, Midget White)

- threatened (Narragansett, White Holland)

- watch (Black, Bourbon Red, Royal Palm, Slate, Standard Bronze)

- study (Broad Breasted Bronze, other naturally-mating non-standards)

Narragansett tom Heritage turkey

In order for turkeys to be classified as Heritage, they must meet 3 criteria:

- Naturally mating: they must have been created naturally from pure strain parents and grandparents of the same variety and they must be able to breed naturally. (No artificial insemination.)

- Long productive outdoor lifespan: they must be able to thrive growing outdoors for a long time (5-7 yrs for breeding hens and 3-5 for breeding toms). (Not grown indoors for a few months then processed.)

- Slow growth rate: they must grow slowly so bone structure can keep up to their muscles and organ growth. (Not using growth hormones for large breasts where they suffer early heart attacks and can't walk due to lack of leg muscle support.)

That's why it's so important for groups like my own SBSAA to take a stand and only promote those varieties with pure strains. There are also individuals who keep from a few of one variety to many breeds and varieties because even small flocks contribute to future genetic diversity.

One such person is the Canned Quilter at Hickery Holler Farm in the Ozarks. She has a fascinating blog showcasing her love of family, quilting and canning including recipes. I found her because I was looking for a photo of a Bourbon Red pair and she had blogged about having 2 Bourbon Red hens and was looking for a tom. She found him and named him Fonzie.

Fonzie and his girls - trio of Bourbon Red Heritage turkeys

That's only one Heritage turkey trio. Yet, if they are kept in a healthy, stress-free environment, they can pro-create naturally, produce and brood dozens more of their kind.

A few years ago I heard about the plight of the common tiger. I never knew they were in any kind of danger. I mean, there are so many of them, right? But according to the article I read at the time, all the tigers in the world are now genetically the same. So if one tiger gets sick with a new virus, it can potentially kill every tiger on the planet with one swipe. Why? Because there aren't any tigers with slightly different genes to combat the new virus.

Another similar group to the ALBC is Rare Breeds Canada (RBC). The RBC motto is Genetic Diversity for Breed Security. It maintains a watchlist similar to the ALBC, but of Heritage breeds in Canada. It also keeps track of the varieties bred in Canada to withstand the Canadian climate. Both of these organizations deserve support for their efforts.

Here's a video of 3 soccer-playing Royal Palm toms. Perhaps they could get a game together against the Bourbon Reds? Haha

God made many wonderful things for us to eat, use and enjoy. Man tries to improve on perfection - but at what cost to future generations?

Discussion questions for today:
- Were you aware of the roles the ALBC and RBC play?
- Have you ever looked a turkey in the eye? Touched one?
- Which variety do you think looks the nicest?
- Do you eat turkey for Thanksgiving/Christmas?
- Have you heard about the plight of the tigers?


1. Hougham, A., 2003. ‘Turkeys: Much Smarter Than You Think’. Available at [Accessed 6 April 2020].

2. Goldman, J., 2013. ‘Nothing To Gobble At: Social Cognition In Turkeys’. Scientific American Blog Network. Available at [Accessed 7 April 2020].

3. Hale, E.B., Schleidt, W.M. and Schein, M.W., 1969. The behavior of turkeys. In The behaviour of domestic animals (pp. 554-592). Baillière: Tindall & Cassell.

4. Hickoff, S., 2009. Turkey Calls And Calling. Stackpole Books.

5. William, E., 2017. ‘Experience: I’m a Turkey Whisperer’. The Guardian 22 December. Available at [Accessed 6 April 2020].

6. Smith, A. F., 2006. The Turkey: An American Story. US: University of Illinois Press.

7. McWilliams, J., 2010. ‘Consider The Turkey’. The Atlantic. Available at [Accessed 7 April 2020].

Turkey Intelligence

It’s a common misconception that turkeys are dumb animals. One of the reasons why people think turkeys are not very smart is because of the story of how turkeys can drown in a rainstorm by looking up in the sky until their nostrils are filled with water.

Tom Savage, an American poultry scientist at Oregon State University, has studied turkeys for 30 years and argues that in fact, turkeys are very smart animals indeed. His research, at the beginning of the 1990s, found that turkeys’ behaviour of staring up at the sky is a genetically-caused nervous disorder called ‘tetanic torticollar spasm’. 1 Savage, T., 2009. ‘OSU Animal Scientist Debunks Dumb Turkey Myth’. Life at OSU. Available at [Accessed 8 April 2020]. So if you see a turkey staring into the sky for a few minutes, it is likely that he or she is experiencing one of those episodes. After a few minutes, the turkey will go back to what they were doing before.

Another argument for turkeys’ intelligence is their complex vocalisations. They have over 30 different vocalisations. Their calls have different functions, for example keeping the flock together, telling other turkeys about especially good food and warning of danger.

When one bird is trapped and is calling out to the others, his or her peck members would run over to see what’s going on. 2 Hickoff, S., 2009. Turkey Calls And Calling. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books The well known ‘gobble’ is used by males to attract females and repel other males during the mating season. When turkeys are roosting in the trees at night, they have a special call to communicate with those who are roosting nearby.

Young turkeys use a high pitched ’kee-kee’ when they have lost the rest of the group and want to regroup. 3 2020. ‘What Does A Turkey Say?’ NWTF. Available at [Accessed 8 April 2020]. Hunters frequently use turkey-like calls to fool turkeys and locate them in woodlands.

On the social cognition front, turkeys are really quite clever. 4 Goldman, J., 2013. ‘Nothing To Gobble At: Social Cognition In Turkeys’. Scientific American Blog Network. Available at [Accessed 7 April 2020]. At six months olds, the male poults (young) of the flock separate from their mothers and sisters and form life-lasting sibling groups. Living in groups is much safer than living on their own when it comes to protection from predators.

Wild turkeys, as well as domesticated ones, can distinguish between in-group and out-group members. 5 Buchwalder, T. and Huber-Eicher, B., 2003. ‘Effect of increased floor space on aggressive behaviour in male turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo)’. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 89(3-4), pp.207-214. More than that, if one turkey is removed from his flock, he will squawk in protest until reunited with the flock. 4 Goldman, J., 2013. ‘Nothing To Gobble At: Social Cognition In Turkeys’. Scientific American Blog Network. Available at [Accessed 7 April 2020].

Domesticated turkeys recognise their human carer and often greet them with excitement and joy. 6 Hutto, J., 2006. Illumination in the Flatwoods: A Season with the Wild Turkey. Lander: Lyons Press In sanctuaries, turkeys have been seen to follow their human carer around and show enjoyment of being stroked with satisfied purring. When Viva!’s founder, Juliet, rescued a turkey (won in a church raffle by a supporter who asked for the bird to be delivered alive!) – she describes how Bertie was “the most affectionate friend, following me everywhere and shimmying her feathers with delight at shoulder massages. Her range of sounds when talking with me was astonishing and fascinating.”

Turkeys are very intelligent birds with complex social systems. Factory farming denies them most of their natural behaviour which leads to high stress levels and suffering.

Real Farmer Rips Michael Pollan and the Me-Too Gaggle of Food Elitists A New One

I grew up and worked on a dairy farm until I was age 18. This gives me a very different perspective on farming than most Americans get from popular ag fables like Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, novelist Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and the movie, Food Inc. As a reality check, I highly recommend reading a superb essay in The American by Missouri farmer Blake Hurst.  In "The Omnivore's Delusion: Against Agri-Intellectuals," Blake explains a few things in plain simple language. He begins: 

I'm dozing, as I often do on airplanes, but the guy behind me has been broadcasting nonstop for nearly three hours. I finally admit defeat and start some serious eavesdropping. He's talking about food, damning farming, particularly livestock farming, compensating for his lack of knowledge with volume.

I'm so tired of people who wouldn't visit a doctor who used a stethoscope instead of an MRI demanding that farmers like me use 1930s technology to raise food. Farming has always been messy and painful, and bloody and dirty. It still is.

But now we have to listen to self-appointed experts on airplanes frightening their seatmates about the profession I have practiced for more than 30 years. I'd had enough. I turned around and politely told the lecturer that he ought not believe everything he reads. He quieted and asked me what kind of farming I do. I told him, and when he asked if I used organic farming, I said no, and left it at that. I didn't answer with the first thought that came to mind, which is simply this: I deal in the real world, not superstitions, and unless the consumer absolutely forces my hand, I am about as likely to adopt organic methods as the Wall Street Journal is to publish their next edition by setting the type by hand.

Hurst strongly argues that the "sustainable agriculture" championed by East and Left Coast armchair agriculturalists like Pollan and the directors of Food Inc. is in fact harmful to the natural environment. As he explains:

Critics of "industrial farming" spend most of their time concerned with the processes by which food is raised. This is because the results of organic production are so, well, troublesome. With the subtraction of every "unnatural" additive, molds, fungus, and bugs increase. Since it is difficult to sell a religion with so many readily quantifiable bad results, the trusty family farmer has to be thrown into the breach, saving the whole organic movement by his saintly presence, chewing on his straw, plodding along, at one with his environment, his community, his neighborhood. Except that some of the largest farms in the country are organic—and are giant organizations dependent upon lots of hired stoop labor doing the most backbreaking of tasks in order to save the sensitive conscience of my fellow passenger the merest whiff of pesticide contamination. They do not spend much time talking about that at the Whole Foods store.

The most delicious irony is this: the parts of farming that are the most "industrial" are the most likely to be owned by the kind of family farmers that elicit such a positive response from the consumer. Corn farms are almost all owned and managed by small family farmers. But corn farmers salivate at the thought of one more biotech breakthrough, use vast amounts of energy to increase production, and raise large quantities of an indistinguishable commodity to sell to huge corporations that turn that corn into thousands of industrial products….

To the farmer on the ground, though, a farmer blessed with free choice and hard won experience, the moral choices aren't quite so easy. Biotech crops actually cut the use of chemicals, and increase food safety. Are people who refuse to use them my moral superiors? Herbicides cut the need for tillage, which decreases soil erosion by millions of tons. The biggest environmental harm I have done as a farmer is the topsoil (and nutrients) I used to send down the Missouri River to the Gulf of Mexico before we began to practice no-till farming, made possible only by the use of herbicides. The combination of herbicides and genetically modified seed has made my farm more sustainable, not less, and actually reduces the pollution I send down the river.  

I particularly enjoyed Hurst's take down of Pollan's proposal to forcing all Americans to compost their leftovers and then deliver them free of charge to farmers:

His other grand idea is mandatory household composting, with the compost delivered to farmers free of charge. Why not? Compost is a valuable soil amendment, and if somebody else is paying to deliver it to my farm, then bring it on. But it will not do much to solve the nitrogen problem. Household compost has somewhere between 1 and 5 percent nitrogen, and not all that nitrogen is available to crops the first year. Presently, we are applying about 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre to corn, and crediting about 40 pounds per acre from the preceding years soybean crop. Let's assume a 5 percent nitrogen rate, or about 100 pounds of nitrogen per ton of compost. That would require 3,000 pounds of compost per acre. Or about 150,000 tons for the corn raised in our county. The average truck carries about 20 tons. Picture 7,500 trucks traveling from New York City to our small county here in the Midwest, delivering compost. Five million truckloads to fertilize the country's corn crop. Now, that would be a carbon footprint!

Please read the whole essay and learn about how turkeys drown themselves in rain storms, chickens peck each other to death, sows squash their piglets, and much, much more information on the fun and frolic of farming. 

See also my columns, "Organic Alchemy,' "I Don't Care Where My Food Comes From And Neither Should You," and my review of novelist Barbara Kingsolver's latest fiction on farming, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Positive Change

Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

Increased Public Awareness

In the last fifteen years there has been a dramatic change in public perception concerning ethical treatment of animals on factory farms. In the past, animal welfare standards were applied only to companion animals, but now more and more people are extending compassion to all animals, including farm animals.


A huge step in the right direction occurred on January 1, 2013. In a landmark decision the European Union banned the use of pig gestation crates after a sow reaches the fourth week of pregnancy. Prior to this, it was common for female pigs to spend most of their lives confined in these crates. A year later in 2014, Canada adopted the European ban and further required that all Canadian pork facilities built or renovated after July 1st, 2014 must use group housing systems instead of gestation crates. In the United States, legislation has been passed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon and Rhode Island that bans the use of gestation crates. Many other states are considering similar laws. However, farrowing crates, in which female breeding pigs can be kept for up to five weeks, are not banned.

In the last several years, policies have been implemented by some of the largest chain restaurants in the world that require suppliers to discontinue the use of gestation crates. These restaurants include McDonald’s, Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Wendy’s. The world’s largest hog producer and pork processor, Smithfield Foods, has phased out 54% of the gestation crates at its’ company owned farms since 2007, and is on track to eliminate all of them by 2022. Other major pork producers like Tyson and Seaboard are considering similar policy changes.

A huge policy change came in May 2015 when Wal-Mart, America’s largest food retailer, released an official position on animal welfare and antibiotic use in farm animals. The position asks all their food suppliers to put into effect animal farming methods consistent with the “Five Freedoms,” the Farm Animal Welfare Council’s guidelines for the welfare of farm animals.

  1. Freedom to express normal behavior by providing sufficient space to move freely.
  2. Freedom from pain, injury, or disease by prevention and treatment.
  3. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
  4. Freedom from discomfort by providing a shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  5. Freedom from hunger and thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet that maintains full health and vigor.

Prior to this new policy, Wal-Mart did not have an animal welfare code in place and suppliers didn’t have to adhere to any set of standards. The new policy also asks all suppliers to stop feeding antibiotics to animals unless it is necessary to help treat them for an illness.

Media coverage of the announcement was worldwide both food industry experts and animal rights organizations have called it a game-changer. Wal-Mart sells more food than any other store and can use its clout to influence the supply chain and the way products are made and sold across the food industry. Wal-Mart said the driving force behind the policy change was its own research, which revealed that with animal welfare standards in place, 77 percent of its shoppers would have more trust for Wal-Mart. In addition, 66 percent said it would increase their likelihood to shop at one of their stores.

Shutterstock/Ingrid Prats

Farm Animal Welfare Legislation

Around the world, farm animal welfare laws are being enacted, making it illegal for farmers to employ methods of containment that are deemed inhumane. Other laws are clamping down on inhumane treatment of the animals by farm workers. A huge step in the right direction occurred on January 1, 2013. In a landmark decision the European Union banned the use of pig gestation crates after a sow reaches the fourth week of pregnancy. Prior to this, it was common for female pigs to spend most of their lives confined in these crates. A year later in 2014, Canada adopted the European ban and further required that all Canadian pork facilities built or renovated after July 1st, 2014 must use group housing systems instead of gestation crates. In New Zealand, it is now illegal to use gestation crates and they are being phased out in Australia. In the United States, legislation has been passed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon and Rhode Island that bans the use of gestation crates. Many other states are considering similar laws.

In March of 2015, Arizona governor Doug Ducey vetoed a bill introduced by the corporate agriculture lobby that would have declassified all farm animals (including horses) as animals under the state’s anti-cruelty laws. The bill would have changed current anti-cruelty laws to cover only companion animals. Cruel and inhumane practices inflicted on farm animals would have been made legal. Governor Ducey stated, “We must ensure that all animals are protected, and mindful that increasing protections for one class of animals does not inadvertently undercut protections for another.”

A big victory for factory animals was the passage of Prop 12 in 2018, which protects farm animals in California from extreme confinement. The measure was self-titled the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act. The proposition established minimum requirements for farmers to provide more space for egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and calves raised for veal. California businesses are banned from selling eggs or uncooked pork or veal that come from animals housed in ways that do not meet these requirements.

A huge step in the advancement of humane treatment of farm animals has taken place in Israel, a country at the forefront of animal rights, where over 400 cameras and 50 digital recorders have been installed in all 50 slaughterhouses throughout the country. They operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, feeding a live video stream to supervisors within the facility as well as to Agriculture Ministry veterinary inspectors in an off-site ministry control center. By law, every room in which animals are present must have a camera. The significance of this bold move by Israel to force slaughterhouse personnel to adhere to humane treatment regulations cannot be overstated.

Some local and regional governments are even beginning to educate their constituents to the benefits associated with not eating any farm animal products at all.

Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

Another major step has been the withdrawal of major corporate support for ALEC, The American Legislative Exchange Council, which has been instrumental in pushing “ag-gag” bills thru state legislatures. Ag-gag laws make it illegal to take any photographic or video footage in agricultural factory farms without permission, making it almost impossible to document animal abuse within the facilities. ALEC has traditionally been the recipient of huge donations from large corporations, but recently has lost support from more than 100 major corporations including eBay, Facebook, Google, British Petroleum, Shell, and the American Advancement of Retired Persons (AARP).

Scientific Studies

More and more scientific data is coming out that proves what many people have known all along–cows, chickens, goats, turkeys, pigs, sheep and other species of farm animals are just as curious, emotive, intelligent, and individual as our own companion animals. Science is proving that they suffer and feel pain just as much as dogs, cats, or human beings. In 2014, scientists from Wageningen University in the Netherlands conducted a series of experiments with ninety-six pigs to determine what level of empathy, if any, they experience for one another. The scientists were shocked at the results. In addition to feeling a high level of empathy for the other pigs as they experienced stressful situations, they cognitively experienced the feelings in a way that was previously thought to be distinctly human.

Scientists and animal rights advocates in Germany came together and developed a technology that can potentially end the mass slaughter of the 45 million male chicks born into the country’s egg industry each year. Researchers developed a method that determines the sex of each fertilized egg before the chick inside develops. This enables the removal of all male-identified eggs before the fetus develops, leaving only the female eggs to hatch. This technology was introduced in 2018, and makes Germany the first country in the world to implement this practice.

Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

Undercover Videos Exposing Cruelty and Inspiring Change

Much of the increased public awareness of the suffering farm animals endure on factory farms is a direct result of undercover videos. Animal rights activists have risked physical harm by secretly filming the conditions inside factory farms and showing the rampant abuse that takes place, which seems to be common. These films have played a major role in convincing law enforcement, legislators, and the general public that the current legal standards protecting farm animals simply aren’t enough. Not only have the films brought to light an industry accepted culture of animal abuse, they have resulted in numerous animal cruelty convictions. In 2008, undercover footage was released by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) of horrific abuse at a Westland Hallmark Meat Company slaughterhouse in Chino, California. The footage showed workers torturing cows too weak and sick to stand or walk on their own (called “downer cows”). The cows were kicked, hosed with high pressure hoses, then rammed with a forklift and dragged with chains, all in an attempt to get them to walk to their deaths. The footage resulted in one of the largest meat recalls in U.S. history and the largest settlement ever—$497 million—for a case involving animal abuse.

In 2011, a worker at Conklin Dairy Farms in Plain City, Ohio was sentenced to eight months in jail and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for maliciously abusing cows and calves. The charges were a result of undercover footage filmed by a Mercy For Animals undercover investigator during a four week period in 2010. The court also ordered the worker to receive mandatory animal abuse counseling and barred him from contact with animals for three years.

There are countless undercover videos and footage that show systematic abuse and cruelty on factory farms. Sadly many of the videos show the same patterns and types of abuse that these animals endure, and new videos are continuously being released. The undercover video footage by Animal Equality, Mercy for Animals, Animal Outlook, HSUS, and other farm animal advocacy organizations is forcing corporate animal agriculture companies to impose more humane handling and treatment of animals by their employees or be subject to unwanted lawsuits, fines, and media attention. Even the recently adopted ag-gag laws in some states haven’t kept new undercover footage from being released and inspiring people to demand change.

Farm Sanctuaries

The rescued animals at the farm sanctuaries are ambassadors for the farm animals currently suffering in factory farms. Hilda the sheep, the first animal rescued by Farm Sanctuary, touched the hearts and minds of millions of people including legislators, policymakers, and visitors to the sanctuary with her gentle, forgiving, and playful personality. When she was rescued by Gene Baur and Lorri Houston, she was lying near dead on top of a pile of dead animals at the Lancaster Stockyards. Baur and Houston oversaw her medical recovery and brought her to Farm Sanctuary where she lived the rest of her life roaming the green pastures.

Many farm sanctuaries have been created throughout the world over the last ten years. The first one, Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York, opened in 1985. These inspired rural locations provide a home for rescued farm animals and give them a place to live out the remainder of their years with dignity, surrounded by compassion and love. Moreover, because most farm sanctuaries are open to the public, they give people the opportunity to meet and get to know farm animals on a personal level. For many, this interaction with the rescued animals opens their eyes to the reality that farm animals are no different than their pet dog or cat.

Farm Sanctuary

Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

Edgar, a humble and kind-hearted pig rescued from an Australian pig farm, inspired Pam Ahern to create Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary. Edgar was a gentle giant and a dear friend to the other rescued animals at the sanctuary. His humanity touched thousands of visitors during his lifetime. He was a true ambassador for pigs and farmed animals throughout Australia.

Edgar was a gentle giant and a dear friend to the other rescued animals at the sanctuary

Compassionate Eating Habits

Possibly the greatest indication that people’s perceptions of farm animals is changing is the increased number choosing to no longer consume animal products as food. The percentage of vegetarians and vegans worldwide has dramatically increased over the last ten years. The number of U.S. consumers identifying as vegan grew from 1% to 6% between 2014 and 2017, a 600% increase, according to GlobalData.

U.S. consumers spent nearly $1.9 billion on plant-based milks in 2018 and an impressive $3.3 billion on plant-based foods in 2018. New vegetarian and vegan restaurants are popping up everywhere, and the success of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, is nothing short of a phenomenon. And this change is happening worldwide, India is ranked first in the world with 38% of the total population being vegetarians. Israel is 2nd at 13%, followed by Taiwan(China)(12%), Italy(10%), and Germany, Austria and the UK(all at 9%). Brazil follows at 8%. The vegan and vegetarian movement is exploding.

Shutterstock/Gerald Koudenburg

A Five Year Program for the Development of Agriculture

For discussion of history and genealogy of the New River Valley of North Carolina and Virginia you are welcomed to join the New River History and Genealogy Discussion Group.

Welcome and we hope you join the discussions.


New River Notes &mdash Complete

January 21, 2014

After about two years of work we have completed a major upgrade to New River Notes. On January 21, 2014 we switched in the last of the updated files and final page revisions.

In January 2013 we introduced the new site layout but because there were many pages left to do there was a big red Under Construction on the front page. A year later we've finished all of the pages that were on the original site. Construction is complete. We have a great looking site full of material to help you in your research and possibly entertain you.

New River Notes

January 6, 2013

New River Notes, a leading genealogy resource for the New River Valley of North Carolina and Virginia, launched its new look website today.

New River Notes was originally launched in 1998 by Jeffrey C. Weaver providing New River Valley researchers with a new wealth of information and that tradition is continued today by the Grayson County, Virginia Heritage Foundation, Inc.

Welcome and we hope you enjoy our new look.

A Five Year Program for the Development of Agriculture in Grayson County, Virginia

Prepared by Grayson County Agricultural Advisory Council and David T. Painter County Agricultural Agent 1927


The program presented in this bulletin is prepared by the members of the Grayson County Agricultural Advisory Council. This council is composed of representative farmers and business men of Grayson, who, after a careful study of the county's agricultural conditions, have worked out a complete program with full recommendations.

These recommendations are made in full accordanceance with resuIts obtained from the experience of the best farmers in the county together with facts found by the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station at Blacksburg.

It is realized by the members of the council that this program is of real value to the agricultural interests of the county only insofar as it is carried out and put in practice on the farms of the county. The real purpose of this agricultural program is to establish a safe and sound farming program for Grayson, which if followed by the farmers will result in an increase of hundreds of thousands of dollars income to them and other business interests of the county. Some of the best farmers in the county have already adapted and put into practice these improved methods as recommended by the council and have found that it pays.

The advisory council therefore presents these recommendations to the farmers of this county as being both practical and profitable when carried out and put in actual practice on the farms of Grayson county. No recommendations are made which are 'probably" all right, but in every case the practices advised are known to be sound by actual experience.


T. M. CALHOUN, Chairman
M. F. JOHNSON, Secretary
DAVID T. PAINTER, County Agent and Assistant Secretary


Ex-officio members

HON. T. L. FELTS, State Senator
HON. H. T. SMITH, Representative
S. L. BOURNE, Supervisor Providence District
V. S. CORNETT, Supervisor Wilson District
E. J. REEVES, Supervisor Old Town District
W. R. WARD, Supervisor Elk Creek District


The agricultural council realizes that the farmers of Grayson during the past six years have experienced and suffered one the most serious agricultural depressions in the history of our nation. Unfortunately there is no panacea or immediate remedy from the many conditions which were and are now resposible for our agricultural depression. Also there is very little the national government can do in a permanent way by legislation can relieve our various agricultural difficulties. It is up to the farmer of this county, state, and nation to work out their own salvation and solve their own agricultural problems by better and more efficient methods of production, marketing, and cooperative organizations.

The agricultural council of Grayson believes that there are five vital agricuitural principles which have been tried out sufficiently long in this and other counties to have proved their worth and which can be used effectively in meeting our agricultural situation. Upon these five principles the council offers to give the people of Grayson the greatest hope for a permanent and prosperous agriculture.

These five vital principles for a successful agriculture in county are:

  1. More eflicient production per acre and per animal unit. Lowering the cost of production by increasing the yield per acre and thus reducing the number of acres in cultivation and in livestock to secure the maximum growth or grass during the grazing and feeding periods.
  2. Production of more home-grown foods and feeds: To have at home and board at the same place, by growing a sufficent amount of food and feed supplies for yourself and livestock, as the farmers of Grayson county spend over $150,000.00 each year to buy mill feed, flour, pork, etc. for their families and stock.
  3. Fitting production to consumption: Adjusting crop and livestock operations to meet various market demands, by taking advantage of the livestock and crop reports and the agricultural outlook for the present and future supply and demands for certain farm products. The crop and livestock reports and outlook can be secured free from the United States Department of Agriculture.
  4. Better methods of marketing: A country cooperative marketing system and a standardization of farm products so that the farmer shall realize top prices for first grade products.
  5. Establishing a county- wide farm organization: All other classes of American people from the day laborer to the captains of industries of our country are organized for their common good and protection, but agriculture, the basic industry and the foundation upon which the wealth of our nation, the character of its people, and the permanancy of its institutions are all depending, has no definite organization of its own to protect and promote its welfare, nor has agriculture a united representation in our Congress.

The recommendations of the agricultural advisory council given here are built around these five fundamental principles, and it is urged that all who are interested in the development of better agriculture in Grayson county give careful consideration to these recommendations and put as many of them into practice as possible.


Soil and Crop Improvement program Recommended by Agronomy Committee

This committee realized the fact that a fertile soil is the basis of successful agriculture, and that the proper cultivation of the soil is the first and most important industry of any thriving county. A glance at the average crop yields of Grayson county shows that the farmers of Grayson do not appreciate this.

Recent figures obtained from cost records kept on a farm in this county show that it costs about $30.00 to produce an acre of corn, $12.50 to produce an acre of wheat, $12.00 to produce an acre of oats, and $20.00 to produce an acre of hay. The present farm prices for corn, wheat, oats, and hay prove that our average county yield of farm crops is not paying expenses, if we allow ourselves a reasonable wage for the work we do.

The committee believes that under present conditions and prices it is the best policy for our farmers to cultivate fewer acres and increase the yield per acre than increase the cultivable area.

Name of Crop Average for
Grayson Co.
Average for the Best
Farms in Grayson County
State Average
Corn 27.4 bushels 50 bushels 28 bushels
Wheat 10.6 bushels 22 bushels 12 bushels
Hay (all varieties) 1.23 tons 2-2.5 tons 1 ton
Oats 28 Bushels 37 bushels 22 bushels
Rye 12 bushels 28-30 bushels 11 bushels
Potatoes 60 bushels 100-120 bushels 90 bushels
Birdeye Beans 7.5 bushels 14 bushels --

Soil Improvement

Crop Rotation. The first essential of successful farming is the establishment of a definte crop rotation. A good crop rotation should furnish most of the food and feeds needed on the farm and at the same time maintain and improve the fertility of soil. This would give an equal distribution of farm labor throughout the year and also provide a clear cash crop (either livestock or farm crop).

The following rotations are recommended:

Crop Rotations
Rotation I II III IV
First Year Corn Corn Corn Corn (seeded to Rye in Fall)
Second Year Wheat Wheat Wheat with Sweet Clover Soybeans or Field Beans
Third Year Clover and Grasses Clover and Grasses Wheat
Fourth Year Clover and Grasses - Clover and Grasses
Fifth Year - - Clover and Grasses

It is strongly advised that a winter cover crop, wheat, rye, or barley be sown in the fall on the land after corn, beans, etc., to prevent the washing of the land and the leaching out during the late fall rains and the freezing and thawing of the fields left bare, leaches out more plant food during the winter than is taken out by a corn crop during the growing season. The committee therefore urges that such poor practice of farming as leaving fields bare during the winter be discontinued. A winter cover crop also furnishes fine winter and early spring grazing for sheep, calves, and dairy cows.

Lime. Investigations prove that where lime has been used in Grayson it has been extrem&y profitable, showing an annual average profit of $10.00 for each ton of lime used, when applied at this rate once every three or four years. We are using only 1/30 as much lime in this county as we should use. Ground limestone can be purchased for $1.50 per ton delivered at the railroad points in the county. It is recommended that one ton of ground limestone or 1/2 ton burnt lime, or 3/4 ton hydrated lime per acre be applied every three to five years on fields used for crop rotation. If the fields have never been limed before, the above amounts should be doubled for best results.

One ton of ground limestone and marl (sometimes called precipitated lime) is equivalent to 3/4 of a ton of hydrated lime or « ton of burnt lime in correcting the acidity of the soil. Ground limestone and marl should be fine enough for all of it to pass through a fly screen. Coarser than this it is of little value. The lack of lime is the principal cause of so many clover failures and all legumes, as well as other crops, are greatly benefited by lime.

Organic Matter. There is no question that one of the greatest needs of our soils is organic matter. Give back to the soil plenty of organic matter and a greater return from the soil will be the result. Sources of organic matter are: stable manure, crop residue (that which is left after crops have been taken off) and turning under green manure crops, such as clover, soybeans, or rye. Take care of all manure and arrange crop rotation so that the natural residue, with plenty of green manure crops to turn under along with feeding on the land, will be adequate for organic matter.

Legumes. The committee recommends that the acreage of red clovers, sweet clovers, soybeans, and alfalfa be greatly increased. In order to maintain the nitrogen content of the soil and improve the fertility of the land it is necessary to use a legume such as red clover in each crop rotation. When cut for hay, soybeans should not be considered as a soil-improving crop. All legumes should be inoculated on land where they have not been grown before, especiafly soybeans, sweet clover, and alfalfa.

Fertilizer. The committee find that the use of fertilizers is increasing in Grayson and believes that this will continue to increase for many years. However, much of the fertilizer now used in Grayson is wasted, due to the fact that its use is not fully understood. Commercial fertilizer contains certain plant food elements and should be bought by the analysis or per cent of plant food it contains and not by the brand or trade mark on the bag. Different crops and certain soils need different kinds of fertilizer, and unless the kind is used to suit the land and the crop the full benefit is not obtained.

Fertilizers recommended for different crops grown in Grayson:

Crops Amount per acre
Acid %
Ammonia % Potash %
Small grains 300-400 12 2 2
Corn 200- 400 12 2 2
Soybeans 200-300 20 - -
Clover and alfalfa 300-500 12 2 2
Grass alone 300- 400 12 2 2
Potatoes 800-1000 4 4 -

The above recommendations are for soils of average productivity. An average of at least 200 pounds of fertilizer per acre should be applied annually to cultivated crops, including both grain and hay crops. The committee therefore urges heavier applications of higher analysis fertilizers to increase the yield and reduce the cost of production.

Good Seed. Good seed is half the crop, and all seed that "looks good" to the eye is not. Good seed should be of adapted high yielding variety, free from disease, noxious weed, and of high germination. Certified seed should always be used because it represents the same thing in the seed world as registered livestock among animals and produces larger yields of better quality crops. All Red or Mammoth clover seed bought should be of known origin and grown in the northern part of the United States. Good seed of the following varieties are recommended by the agronomy committee for larger yields and more profits in Grayson.

Crop Varieties
Corn Yellow field Reid's Yellow Dent
White field Boone County Silver King Hickory King (on thin land)
Ensilage Cocke's Prolific
Wheat Bearded V. P. I. No. 131 (certified) Fulcaster Stoner
Smooth V. P.I. No.112 (certified) Leap's Prolific
Rye Piedmont Winter Abruzzi
Oats Winter V. P. I. No.1 Black Virginia Gray Winter
Spring Burt, Folghuin and Swedish select
Soybeans Virginia Certified Wilson Certified Haberlandt

All infected wheat and oat seed should be treated for stinking and loose smut. See county agent for method of treatment.

Pasture Improvement

Grayson is a livestock county and its pastures are the foundation of a profitable livestock production. Many of the permanent pastures and grazing boundaries in Grayson need improvement and can be improved without breaking up the old sod and trying to reset it in grass. The committee recommends the following treatment for the improvement of permanent pastures:

  1. Top dress the pasture with 400-500 pounds of 16% acid phosphate and two tons of ground limestone per acre every six to eight years.
  2. Good results are often obtained with top dressing of acid phosphate alone at the rate of 300-500 pounds per acre.
  3. Apply acid phosphate and lime as soon after the growth starts in the spring as possible - April to June.
  4. Do not mix the lime and acid phosphate together before applying.
  5. Mow off weeds in August.
  6. If there is a heavy stand of broom sedge, disk and sow:
    2 lbs. of white Dutch clover per acre
    4 lbs. of alsike per acre
    3 lbs of red top per acre.
  7. On bare spots in the pasture sow the following mixture after applying some litter and making a shallow seed bed:
    3 lbs. of red top
    4 lbs. of alsike
    2 lbs. of white Dutch clover
  8. Apply the fertilizer and lime with grain drill, lime spreader, or by hand.

Results from above treatment will more than double the grazing capacity of old worn out pastures in a year or two after the application of phosphate and lime. Fur further information regarding soils, crops, and plant diseases, see or write your county agricultural agent.

J. ERNEST DELP, Chairman
M. F. JOHNSON, Secretary


Livestock Improvement Program as Recommended by the Livestock Committee

Grayson is primarily a livestock and grazing county as revealed by a study of its resources. The 1926 Virginia farm statistics show that there are 12,100 beef cattle, 6,900 milk cows, 11,900 sheep, and 4,600 hogs on the farms, and the valuation of all livestock is over one million dollars. During the last year 4,200 cattle, 9,660 sheep and lambs, 120 market hogs, and 8,000 to 10,000 feeder pigs were shipped out of the county. Realizing the importance of these three classes of livestock, the committee submits the following recommendations:

Beef Cattle

Grayson raises more stockers than any other county in the state and ranks first in the production of registered Hereford cattle. Beef cattle like all other kinds of livestock pass through regular cycles of high and low prices. At present we are just starting on the up-grade and if history repeats itself, as it usually does, prices will continue to be good for several years (until about 1932-34).

As this county is a producer of stocker cattle, like others in sections similarly situated we have decreased our herds until we are now from 15 to 20 per cent. below normal. With demand good and prospects of it continuing to be so for several years, it looks like good business to build up our breeding herds to the carrying capacity of our farms. This should not be done at the expense of quality, however, but by reserving some of our best type heifers and breeding to only good type purebred bulls. Seventy-five per cent. of the beef sires used in the county are purebreds. This leaves twenty-five per cent. scrub and grade sires to be eliminated during the period of this program.

  1. Keep or breed to only good type purebred bulls of the three leading beef breeds, Hereford, Shorthorn, or Aberdeen Angus.
  2. Dispose of all scrub or grade bulls and replace them with good type purebred sires.
  3. Increase and improve the cow herd by keeping the best type heifers so as to produce more and better stockers.
  4. Establish purebred herds where conditions are practical.
  1. The livestock committee recommends the improvement of permanent pastures and grazing boundaries as advised by the agronomy committee.
  2. Better wintenng of cattle, especially the young cattle, by feeding plenty of legume hay and some grain.
  3. That more legume hay (clover, soybeans, etc.) be grown and fed in order to give a better balanced ration, resulting in maximum growth and gain.
  4. That silage be fed where practical.
  5. That cheap but adequate shelter be provided.

Disease Control:

  1. Blackleg: Blackleg has caused heavy losses in this county and will continue to do so, unless prevented by vaccinating all calves and yearlings with blackleg aggression to make them immune to the disease for life.
  2. That dipping vats be provided in each community for the control of external parasites (lice and mange).
  3. Scour: Scour is usually caused by improper feeding and germs. Remove the cause if it can be determined. A pint to a pint and one-half of castor oil or pure raw linseed oil will often remedy this condition. Sulphocarbolates Compound given as a drench is also effective. A handful of blood meal put in the feed often is a fine preventive for scour. Calves fed a good balanced ration of wheat bran, corn, or oats with plenty of legume hay seldom, if ever, suffer from scour.
  4. Report all outbreaks of diseases promptly to the county agent.

T. M. CALHOUN, Chairman
I. B. BRYANT, Secretary


A large part of the county is readily adapted to sheep raising, as much of the land is too rough and steep for cultivation, and in many cases it is really better fitted for grazing sheep than cattle. Sheep have always paid and should continue to do so in a county so well suited to sheep raising as this one. For the last five years sheep have been the most profitable class of livestock in the county. It is not advisable to greatly increase your present flock at this time, but it is recommended that more farms in the county keep a small flock of sheep to utilize their rough lands.

  1. Use only good type purebred rams of the leading mutton breeds.
  2. Keep only ewe lambs of good type and fleece for replacing the old or poor-producing ewes.
  3. Establish purebred flocks where conditions warrant.

Feeding and Management:

  1. Take better care of ewes through the winter, especially before and after lambing by feeding a better balanced milk-producing ration.
  2. Dock and castrate all market lambs.
  3. Feed more legume hay. (Timothy is not fit for sheep.)
  4. Treat flock every four weeks for stomach worms. (May to November.)
  5. Control ticks, scab, and other external parasites as recommended by animal husbandry department.
  6. Change pasture for sheep as often as possible.
  7. Provide a winter grazing crop for the ewes before and especially after lambing, such as rye, wheat, or barley.
  8. Have (Iry shelter for the flock in ba(l weather. (Open sheds.)

Ration for Breeding Ewes

Corn, 2 parts oats, 1 part bran, 1 part legume hay. For three or four days after lambing feed ewes a bran mash.

Disease Control:

Pregnancy Disease (so-called). Winter losses of pregnant ewes are, in most cases, caused by improper feeding and management. A well-balanced ration should be fed. Such a ration should con tain a good quality legume hay or a succulent feed, such as clean (not moldy or frozen) silage or both. This is especially important when snow or sleet prevent the ewes from getting to the sod. Pregnant ewes should be kept gaining up to lambing time. The flock should have shelter in bad weather and access to water and sufficient exercise at all times. Avoid feeding moldy or spoiled feed of any kind.

Stomach Worm Treatment:

Dissolve four ounces of bluestone in three gallons of water, being sure that all the bluestone is dissolved. This will be enough to dose 100 mature sheep. If you do not have this many sheep put what you have left in a crock and save for the next time. Be sure to mix the bluestone in an earthen or glass vessel, since bluestone will corrode tin vessels.

Doses of the above solution should be given according to age:

Mature Sheep - 4 liquid ounces
Yearling Sheep - 3 liquid ounces
Lambs, 6 months old - 2 liquid ounces
Lambs, 3 months old - 1 liquid ounce

This solution is to be given as a drench with a two-ounce syringe or drenching bottle (pop bottle). A dose syringe can be obtained from the county agent if desired.

Precaution: Stir the solution while using. Keep sheep on all four feet while drenching. Don't raise the head too high and don't drench too fast. Do not neglect this treatment if you own sheep.

Why It Pays to Dock and Trim Your Lambs

Lambs should be docked and castrated when from one to two weeks old, as there is little or no danger from losses at that age.

Reasons for docking and castrating:

  1. Wether lambs are not restless and will fatten more quickly than ram lambs.
  2. Docked and castrated lambs bring a higher price. This applies especially to the lambs that are to be sold after the 20th of June. Our local buyers paid from one-half to one cent more per pound for the docked and trimmed lambs this year. Wether lambs dress out a higher per cent. and have a better finished carcass than ram lambs. Seventy per cent. of the lambs grading seconds and culls on the market are ram lambs.
  3. Docking adds much to the cleanliness of lambs and makes the lambs look blockier and more attractive to the buyers. All ewe lambs kept, or to be sold for breeding ewes, should be docked.

CHAS. M. PHIPPS, Chairman

One year with another the returns from hogs, especially pigs, have added a great deal to the yearly earnings of the farmers of this county.

The committee recommends the following:

  1. The use of registered boars of good type and of the leading breeds.
  2. To have at least one brood sow on every farm, in order to utilize the waste products and furnish meat for home consumption.
  3. To have purebred herds where conditions warrant.
  4. Breed sows to farrow in March and September.

The committee recommends the following:

That pastures be used as much as possible, both to cut down the cost of production and to contribute to the health of the hogs. Soybeans, clover, or some other good pasture should be used.

Too much corn alone is being fed to hogs, as corn is lacking in muscle and bone-building material. A mineral mixture should be kept before the hogs at all times. It is also urged that breeding or fattening hogs be kept in clean hog lots and not in filthy pens.

For Breeding Hogs
6 parts corn
3 parts wheat middlings
I part tankage or plenty of milk

For Fattening Hogs
8 parts corn
4 parts middlings
1 part tankage or milk

For Growing Pigs
5 parts corn
4 parts middlings (wheat)
1 part tankage or milk

Mineral Mixture for All Hogs
Acid phosphate 5 parts
Limestone 5 parts
Salt 1 part

The committee recommends the following:

  1. Control of external parasites by using 4 parts crankcase oil to 1 part kerosene.
  2. Scrub sow with warm water and soap and move to clean lot before farrowing.
  3. Treatment of pigs for round worms.
  4. Vaccination of hogs to prevent hog cholera (where danger).
  5. Report any symptoms of hog cholera to county agent at once.

Treatment for Round Worm in Pigs:

A number of pigs in this county are not thrifty and do not grow out properly, due to heavy infestation of worms, especially when allowed to run where hogs have been kept for a number of years.

Method of Treatment:

Do not feed pigs for a period of from 24 to 36 hours, then give by means of a stomach tube 2 oz per cwt a mixture of 1 part oil of chenopolium to 16 parts castor oil. Withhold feed 2 hours after treatment and repeat treatment again in ten days for best results.

The above treatment is 100 % effective when properly used and is the only sure way of eradicating the round worm.

For demonstrations see county agent.

G. W. TAYLOR, Chairman
CHAP. COX, Secretary


In 1920 there were 4,500 horses in Grayson county and in 1926 there were only 3,840, a decrease of over 600 head in six vears. Horses also decreased over one-half million head in the United States last year and have been decreasing in about that proportion each year since 1918. The 1926 census shows that the average age of draft horses in Virginia is about 14 years. In parts of the south at present there are not enough horses and mules to meet the farmers' needs for the coming season. We are now facing a very serious shortage in work horses, and the committee recommends that each farm should begin this year to raise young stock, if for no other reason than to replace the old work team. We cannot hope to replace the old team four or five years from now at the low level of present day horse prices. In a short time a decided increase in price of draft horses is to be expected. Be prepared to meet this situation by breeding to a good type registered heavy draft stallion.

For further information relative to livestock production and diseases, see or write your county agent.


As Recommended by the Poultry Committee

The poultry industry has become one of the most important branches of agricultural production in Grayson, and has developed very rapidly in the last few years. The value of poultry products sold last year from this county was over $300,000.00 therefore poultry deserves a careful consideration in this program.

After a careful study the committee finds that the income from poultry is still entirely too low and that the bulk of the income is from farm flocks and not from commercial flocks. There before, it is recommended that the farm flocks in this county be given more and better attention, as poultry is the most neglected class of livestock on most farms.

The average egg production in Grayson is only about 50 eggs per hen per year. This low production causes a loss of around $1.00 per bird annually in the cost of feed alone. However there are flocks in the county that average from 150 to 200 eggs per year. These flocks are not just accidents, but are results of following improved practices.

The committee has studied these practices and recommends the following methods to increase the egg production and income received from poultry by the farmers of Grayson county:

  1. Keep only standard bred birds. (Standard means purebred.)
  2. Practice early hatching or purchase baby chicks early.
  3. Purchase a colony brooder and use it early.
  4. Provide suitable houses and a poultry yard.
  5. Feed properly balanced rations in proper proportions, proper times the year round.
  6. Cull out all unprofitable birds.
  7. Select and breed from only the best of the flock.
  8. Market only quality poultry and eggs.

Standard Bred Stock

Since the most popular breeds are Barred Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, White and Brown Leghorn, Orpington, and Wyandotte, this committee suggests the following:

  1. That only one variety be kept on a farm.
  2. That both Mediterranean and American breeds seem best for commercial egg production.
  3. That one of the leading American or English breeds be kept on the average farm.
  4. That eggs for hatching baby chicks and breeding stocks be bought only from flocks known to be free from diseases (diarrhea, etc.).
  5. That poultry raisers keep breeding pens from their one-and two-year-old hens. (These pens made up only of selected birds.)
  6. Use only strong, well-developed, and standard bred males.
  7. That only experienced poultry raisers take up commercial production.

Early Hatching

The best time to sell eggs is when the price is high early atched pullets are the only ones that lay when the prices are good. Aater hatched pullets do not develop in time to produce eggs in the ill and winter when prices are high. Therefore the committee recommends that chicks of the larger breeds be hatched from Febraary or March to the 15th of April, and that chicks of the smaller breeds be hatched from March to April 30th.

Comfortable Houses

There are many farm flocks in Grayson which are housed in dark, damp, poorly ventilated and draughty houses, while in some causes no house at all is provided Disease and little or no egg production result from this. The committee recommends that comfortable houses be built or old ones remodeled in the right shape. Houses should be built of seasoned lumber and not later than August. Complete poultry house plans will be furnished free by the county agent.

Proper Feeding

The committee believes that one of the most important causes of low egg production is improper feeding and breeding. Farm flocks are often fed less feed than is needed, resulting in poor production.

Poultry needs a variety of feed, for more than one food element is contained in an egg. No grain or mixture of grain is a complete food, without a mash that will provide for the greatest egg production also the lack of sufficient animal protein (as meat scraps, milk, etc.) and some green feed (as cabbage, rye, etc.) during the late fall and winter is the most common cause for low egg production.

1 bushel of wheat - To be fed twice a day, light feeding in the morning and heavier at night.
2 bushel of cracked corn
1 bushel of oats

50 pounds of wheat shorts

25 pounds meat meal, or plenty of milk
11/2 pounds salt

Keep in hopper before hens at all times when feeding layers. Encourage breeders to range and eat more scratch feed.

Always keep plenty of clean water in clean vessels. Sour milk or buttermilk should be fed at all times.

Feeding Baby Chicks

When chicks are taken from the hen or the incubator a drop or two of sour milk may be given each chick with a medicine dropper, as a preventive of common diarrhea.

Chicks should not be fed until from 48 to 60 hours old, thus giving them time to use up the food nature provides.

Until chicks are ten days old they should be fed five times per day a mixture of wheat and corn bread and hard-boiled eggs, and after ten days keep the following mash before them:

4 pounds bran - Keep plenty of sand on the floor, fine oyster shells, charcoal, and fresh, clean water and buttermilk at all times
2 pounds middlings
2 pounds corn meal
5 ounces bone meal

When chicks are a month or more older feed scratch feed containing equal parts of cracked corn and wheat or a commercial feed.

Flock Management

The best time to begin culling is when the young chickens are feathered, by discarding the poor individuals that are off type and color and show lack of vitality, or diseased. Each year during August, September, or October the flock should be gone over again to cull out all birds which have failed to develop egg laying capacity or lacking in vigor. You cannot afford to feed loafers.

The first step to prevent diseases is to select and keep only healthy, vigorous birds. The second is the proper feeding and are of the individuals of the flock and sanitary conditions of the house, yard, etc.

The use of potassium permanganate in the drinking water is often additional precaution against diseases. Use sodium fluoride to lust all poultry for lice and put crankcase oil on the roosts and dropping boards to keep down mites. Select your breeding flock during November or December.

For the last few years young turkeys have been handled very successfully in Virginia by hatching the eggs under hens or in incubators and raising with brooders. They are confined in a limted area for the first six or eight weeks. It has been found by experiments that the disease of blackhead is increased where the young turkeys run on the land used by chickens, as the young turkeys pick up the round worm or eggs liberated by the chickens, and when taken into the system these worms directly or indirectly cause blackhead. When your turkeys are allowed to run on clean, fresh ground, the loss is less than 10%.

Young turkeys should not be fed until after they are 48 hours old. Put sand on the floor also provide oyster shells, charcoal, sour milk, and fresh water. For three or four weeks a mash of corn bread, made of yellow meal, mixed up with eggs, sour milk, and soda, should be fed four or five times a day. After that a mash made of one hundred pounds each of bran, shorts, yellow corn meal, and fifty pounds of fine ground oats and meat scraps, three pounds of fine, dry salt, and eight pounds of tobacco dust should be fed. Also feed the following scratch: Equal parts of one cracked corn, wheat, and pin-head oats. Sufficient range for exercise and green feed should be provided.

Most of the digestive trouble in young turkeys which helps to bring on blackhead is caused when turkeys are allowed to run on free range, and eat an excess of berries, new wheat, corn, chestnuts, acorns, etc.

Epsom salts at the rate of I .2 teaspoon to a full tablespoon per bird according to age, should be given in the feed every other way as a preventive and means of eliminating excessive amounts of certain food. Dissolve the salts in water and then mix the solution with bran or a mash, to be fed the turkeys.

JOE PHIPPS, Chairman
DON A. YOUNG, Secretary

For further information regarding poultry production and diseases, see or write your county agricultural agent.


As Recommended by the Dairy Committee

Dairy farming is important not only because it provides a vital and essential source of human food but it also provides a system of farming that will increase the fertility of the soil.

Dairying is well adapted to certain parts of this county, especially those sections located near the railroad points. The committee recommends that more farmers in those sections start in the dairy business with a few good type dairy cows, as dairying has already proven profitable there.

There is a place for dairy farming in Grayson and it will pay better on certain farms where the locations and conditions are favorable than any other type of farming especially on the smaller farms with land suitable for intensive cultivation of grain and hay crops and where most all the work can be done by the owner and family.

The dairy committee wants it to be thoroughly understood that dairy farming is not advised for the county as a whole. it recommends that those who are planning to go into the dairy business start with only a few good type dairy cows and grow into the business gradually. Dairying is an intensive system of farming and different from the old and established livestock and general farming practices carried on in this county.

The committee realizes that it will be very disastrous to both the beef and dairy industries of the county if the two breeds are crossed, (that is, breeding beef bulls to dairy type cows or dairy bulls to beef type cows). The committee therefore condemns and strongly advises against such harmful practices. The committee hopes that the above recommendations will be followed to the letter and that such outlaw breeding practices will never be committed in Grayson county.

The committee recommends the following:

  1. The use of only registered dairy bulls.
  2. Disposal of all scrub and grade bulls during the term of this program.
  3. Breeding cows as far as practical to freshen in the fall.
  4. Keep best type dairy heifers to replace poor producing cows.
  5. Sell all grade dairy bull calves and poor grade heifer calves for veal.
  1. The following is a good home-grown and home-mixed grain ration:
    300 lbs corn and cob meal
    200 lbs. oats
    200 lbs. wheat bran
    200 lbs. cotton seed meal (41% must go in this ration)
    Feed one pound of the above mixture for every three or four pounds of milk produced daily. In addition feed all the good legume hay the cows will clean up, together with ensilage.
  2. A silo should be on every farm where 10 or more dairy cows are kept.
  3. As far as practicable all forage crops and as much of the grain as possible should be produced on the farm.
  4. Ouc acre of legume hay should be produced for every cow in the herd and improve permanent pastures as has been recommended.
  5. Abruzzi rye makes an excellent early spring grazing crop.
  6. Keep records of production and eliminate the poor producing cows by organizing a cow-testing association as soon as enough cows are available.
  7. Do not breed dairy heifers until 16 or 18 months old.
  8. Provide suitable dairy barn, sheds, and other equipment for comfort of the herd.

Eradication of tuberculosis.

Be careful not to bring diseased animals into the herd.

A dairy cow should produce 5,000 to 6,000 pounds of milk 250 pounds of butterfat per year to be profitable. The average cow in this county only produces 2,511 pounds of milk or about 100 pounds of butterfat per year.

For further information on dairying, see or write your county agent.



The committee believes that the farm home is the center all rural life and that there are many things that will beautify and add to the comfort of the home that can be had by the expenditure of a small amount of money and some effort.

  1. Beautify the farm home by painting the house and setting out some shade trees, shrubs, and flowers.
  2. Put running water in the home and a sink in every kitchen (On most every farm this can be accomplished with little cost and effort, by installing a gravity system water supply.) Washing machine, kitchen cabinet, etc.
  3. Grayson county has vast undeveloped water power resources in its rivers and large streams. There are also innumerable smaller streams running through most of the farms, which can be harnessed and developed to supply lights and power for the needs of the farm. It is recommended that we make use of this power now running to waste and harness this energy to lift and lighten the burdens of farm life.

Home Orchards and Gardens

  1. Improve the home orchard by proper pruning of the trees annually. Bearing trees should be cultivated and fertilized as needed to increase the yield and quality of the fruit.
  2. Spray trees according to the recommendations of the V. P. I. Spray Service.
  3. Set out a few good varieties of apple, peach, pear, and cherry trees to replace the old non-productive trees.
  4. Have a good home garden in both spring and fall.

For further information regarding home improvement, orchard and garden, and disease control, see or write your county agent.

DR. H. T. SMITH, Chairman
WORLEY DELP, Secretary


The committee on Boys' and Girls' Club Work believes that 4-H Club work is the most effective way to improve the rural conditions in our county. We recognize 4-H club work as a definite form of extension work in agriculture and home economics which aids the development of the economic, physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual life of farm boys and girls. The 4-H Club organization, through its meetings, teaches cooperation and leadership which are essential to good citizenship.

The national emblem for the Boys' and Girls' 4-H Club is four-leaf clover with an "H" on each leaflet. It represents the four-fold life program. The four "H's" stand for development of the Hand, Heart, Head, and Health, and the clover leaf represents the leguminous plants which are indispensable for soil building or soil improvement. The main object is to encourage the boys and girls to help their parents to establish better agriculture and to improve the practices around the farm and in the community in which they live. All club members are required to carry a demonstration in some agricultural or home economics project, keep a complete record of their work, take part in all community 4-H club activities to learn by doing this, and to teach others through their demonstrations.

We believe that the future developmeiit of our country depends largely on the work with the boys and girls, and we strongly urge the cooperation of the people of Grayson county in club work. We especially urge the mothers and fathers of children of club age to enroll them in club work and to help them conduct successful demonstrations.

We recommend that every club member conduct a definite demonstration and have for his or her object the improvement of the crop or livestock with which they are working, and through their demonstration teach better practices.

We recommend that in all livestock breeding club projects only good individuals of purebred livestock be used in fattening projects, good high grades in poultry that eggs or birds from standard bred flocks be used and in all crop club demonstrations that seed of known origin, adaptability, and high-yielding varieties, or certified seed be used.

Grayson county club work has been very satisfactory in 1927 with a total enrollment of 250 members in the following projects: purebred sheep, pig, poultry, corn, and bean clubs. There are ten organized clubs with leaders. There were 90 club exhibits at the county fair this year and the club members won over $300.00 in prizes.

Club work has been a great factor in increasing the number of purebred hogs, sheep, and standard bred poultry throughout the county. The value of club work in products raised or grown this year amounted to $5,250.00.

Reviewing and stating the matter briefly, the main objects of club work are:

  1. To do something worth-while and to stimulate interest in community progress.
  2. To improve farm and home practices.
  3. To teach pride in occupation.
  4. To give training in agriculture and home economics.
  5. To develop appreciation of nature.
  6. To teach cooperation.
  7. To develop rural leadership.
  8. To give vision.
  9. To acquire ownership.
  10. To develop men and women.

We therefore recommend that the goal for club work in Grayson county be:

  1. A 4-H club organized in each of the leading communities of the county, these clubs to be organized and conducted according to plans outlined by the state club department.
  2. Each club to have a local leader who will assist the club members in developing the work of the club and community.
  3. Clubs to be organized as soon as possible after December 1st of each Mear and hold at least one meeting each month.
  4. That the program of club meetings and club demonstrations be built around the needs of the community in which the club is located.
  5. That each member conduct a definite demonstration in home agricultural or home economics project and keep a complete record of same, sending it to the county agent when he asks for it.
  6. That as far as possible all club members make exhibits from their demonstrations at the "Great Galax Fair."
  7. That each club send one or more delegates to the State 4-H Club Short Course at Blacksburg each year.

The committee strongly recommends that each community study the above recommendtions and assist the county agent in organizing a 4-H club in their respective communities. Information and literature for conducting such clubs can be secured from the county agent.

KYLE T. COX, Chairman
E. S. HALE, Secretary
Mrs. WINT Catron


The members of the Agricultural Advisory Committee sincerely trust that this program for the development of better and more profitable agriculture in Grayson will be of direct benefit to each and every farmer in the county. The Council recommends that the reader give careful consideration to this program and put into practice as many of these improved methods of farming as possible.

The Council realizes that the standard of living in the county is in direct proportion to the farm income. Therefore the Council firmly believes that these improved methods will greatly increase the farm income when put into practice on the farm, and that returns from these improved methods will greatly exceed the cost of putting them into practice.

The Council also recommends that more farmers in the county seek the services of the county farm demonstration agent. The county agent, as a joint representative of the State Agricultural College and the United States Department of Agriculture, is always ready and willing to be of personal service to you in any relating to agriculture.

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